Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sex Morality and Censorship: After-thoughts

Last weekend i caught up with a play, Sex Morality and Censorship (SM&C), at Ranga Shankara. The play, as the name suggests, raises questions on censorship - what and how much should be censored, if at all. This play is analogous to 'documentary movies' albeit much more interesting and gripping. SM&C is about Vijay Tendulkar's controversial play, Sakharam Binder. Sakharam Binder was banned in 1972 by the censor board. This play, SM&C, digs into the series of events that took place in censoring the play and show them in the light of the actual play, Sakharam Binder.

Vijay Tendulkar's Sakharam Binder, is the story of a very ordinary book binder, Sakharam and so is his portrayal - very ordinary. He, like any other 'ordinary' person staying in the slums, uses 'khadi boli'. The story starts with his bringing in a woman (Lakshmi) into his house whose work is to do the household chores and 'all' other responsibilities of a wife in return for daily bread and two sarees a year. However, due to some problem he 'discards' her and brings in a new woman - Champa. Champa is all what Lakhmi wasn't (except for their bitter past) outspoken (and that to in 'khadi boli') and boozes. Lakshmi enters again. She coaxes Champa by saying that she would do all the household chores. Once (and he had done often before) Sakharam comes in drunk and demands Champa to let him vent his carnal frustration out. Champa's refusal started a fight in which she boozed and hit Sakharam. Lakshmi's character takes a 180 degree turn. She tell Sakharam that Champa has been hanky-pankying with his friend. Sakharam in his uncontrollable anger kills Champa. [You can find the detailed story on the Internet].

Such was the story of Sakharam Binder. Obviously, his right portrayal didn't fit into the family-drama plays category which was in vogue then and perhaps even now. Also, in the early 70s Emran Hashmi wasn't even born. So, people were not used to portrayal of unholy relationships - however aesthetic. Showing Champa boozing and hitting Sakharam, the implicit portrayal of their relationship (how else do one show this - bringing together of two flowers? It was not an expression of love - it was an expression of hatred and frustration), the 'explicit' language - allegedly led the censor board to ban the play.

SM&C showed three different sequences. First, was the play itself. The story of SM&C is very simple. A Delhi based student of Culture comes to a local Marathi Tamasha group to do a study on history of survival of the art over the years. He then along with the Shaahir (narrator) takes the other member of the group, a Lavani dancer, through the history of censorship of Sakharam Binder. Another sequences is the play - Sakharam Binder. The explanation of the Shaahir is complemented by the original play. The third sequence is the portrayal of the series of censorship events which happened - the court case, the moral policing vandalism, the cultural convention and the threats. Sakharam Binder play and the censorship hullabaloo was enacted in parallel to Shaahir's narration.

Kudos to Sunil Shanbag for the amazing direction and seamless transition from one sequence to the second to the third.  Nagesh Bhosle played the role of Shaahir and Sakharam Bhosle very well - the characters were so very different but Bhosle managed to portray both the characters without re-takes in one go. The music also added to the over-all experience.

The play raises some very pertinent questions on censorship. Why is it required. What is to be censored? Who decides what to show and what not? How is it decided? What about the freedom of expression?

Censorship is a different topic of discussion altogether as these questions don't have a straight forward mono-syllabic answer.

6 comments:

deicider March 21, 2010 at 8:49 PM  

Good post,one of ur best.
:)

abhi March 22, 2010 at 11:53 AM  

2nd para. Line 10: change "and" to "that".

Prashant Mehta March 22, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

deicider ji
Thanks!

abhi ji
Thanks for pointing it out. Corrected!

abhi March 22, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

One of your good posts.
Makes a nice reading. :)

hitesh rawat March 22, 2010 at 6:54 PM  

i hate censor board......i think all kind of different movies and plays should be made........i mean if they think it's not good for kids ...give it A certificate.......but damn you don't cut it into pieces....

we need to bring all of kind of stuff on the screen......

i love watching plays....is this in Bangalore....cause i think i have heard the name of the theater earlier?????

Prashant Mehta March 22, 2010 at 7:04 PM  

abhi ji

Thanks!

hitesh rawat ji
Well... I think censorship is not such a black and white topic. It has shades of gray - all over.

Yep. Ranga Shankara is in Bangalore. You can find the location here The official website which has the schedule of plays is http://www.rangashankara.org

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